We are all disabled peoples

Whether we are disabled or able-bodied, we all use IT devices to simulate a failing organ or improve our performance. What redefines the concept of disability.

Photo by Paul Green on Unsplash

The various computer devices which serve to compensate for a handicap — for example, text-to-speech software which offers reading capacity to the blind, cochlear implants which allow certain deaf people to hear, exoskeletons which help certain handicapped people to walk — are designed on the same principle: they simulate, not always perfectly, the functioning of the organ.

Such objects often improve the lives of the people who use them, provided, of course, that they are the ones who control them. But they also remind us that we are able to simulate the functioning of many of our organs with a computer and therefore that these organs only transform information: the eye transforms light information into nerve impulses, the ear does the same with sound information, etc. Only the muscles transform nerve impulses into movement. That’s why exoskeletons are not just computers, but computers that activate motors: robots.

“The difference between a disabled person and a valid person is statistical”.

Photo by Alireza Attari on Unsplash

This use of computers by people with disabilities is therefore not very different from that used by people, who also use computers to make them do what they cannot do themselves. Same: multiplying two 12-digit numbers without making mistakes, memorizing texts and restoring them years later, driving a vehicle for hours without losing focus, repeating the same action a thousand times without getting bored, etc. Besides, computers share this property with many of the technical objects that we invented: we only use a hammer because we can’t hammer nails, a telescope because we can’t see Jupiter’s satellites with the naked eye, etc.

The comparison with computers shows how weak our calculation, memory, concentration, or endurance capacities are, even for those who excel in these activities. For example, the memory of the Aedes, who knew the Iliad and the Odyssey by heart, impresses us. However, these epics are not that long, since a disc of one terabyte can store a few million.

As a result, we may wonder if our inability to memorize a list of a few dozen words, to carry out mentally a multiplication of two three-digit numbers , to be vigilant when driving a vehicle, to repeat the same action without us bored, etc. should also not be classified as . There are thus few differences between the use that disabled people and able-bodied people make of computers: both use them to compensate for their disabilities. Computers were even invented for this.

The only difference between a disabled person and a valid person is therefore statistical: we do not see our inability to memorize a terabyte and to restore it a year later as a handicap, because it is a very common handicap.

The use of computers is an opportunity to change the way we look at other people’s disabilities, by first changing the way we look at ours. While humanism has led us to see ourselves, with rare exceptions, as perfect, it is a side effect, no doubt positive, of the invention of these objects.

Read,write, repeat...